Breaking Point

Day 6 – Solitary

I’ve come to love the silence. You’d love it too if it was all you had. My cell is 8×8. A slab of steel sits against the right wall. It’s supposed to be a bed. No windows. No light. Like I said, the silence is all I have. There’s no one to talk to in solitary.

Well, except Joe.

“Brody. Up and at ’em. Time for breakfast,” Joe yells through the door.

“Joe, I’ve been up all night. There’s no need to yell,” I say, rubbing my temples in an attempt to ward off the migraine swirling through my brain.

“Yeah, yeah,” he mumbles. “Because innocent men don’t sleep here, right?”

All my muscles tense as the mush they call food slides through a hole in the bottom of the cell door. I listen as Joe’s laughter recedes down the hallway. All the blood rushes to my face as the image of her lifeless, beaten body flashes before my eyes.

“One… two… three…,” I whisper to the empty cell. I get to fifteen before I begin to relax but the image stays.

It wasn’t me, I think to myself. No matter what happens, I know that’s the truth. Lying down on the cold, unforgiving bed, I try to recall how many days it’s been and how long it will take for me to break.

Day 25 – Solitary

“Brody. Up and at ’em. Time for breakfast,” Joe yells through the door.

“Joe,” I start.

“Yeah, yeah, the innocent can’t sleep, yada yada,” Joe responds. “How long are you going to keep that up, by the way? I saw the trial. We both know what you did.”

I stay silent. This has become our new routine. Joe sounds the wake-up call. We banter. He pries. I clam up.

He doesn’t get it. He’s just like everyone else. They think they know everything. As always, her image comes to me as I listen to Joe’s footfalls down the hallway.

“One… two… three.”

I get to twenty-three before the heat drains from my face. It takes longer each day.

“It wasn’t me,” I whisper. “It wasn’t me.”

Day 76 – Solitary

“Brody. Up and at ’em. Time for breakfast,” Joe yells through the door.

I stay quiet and wait for him to peek through the narrow window in the door. The breakfast tray drops to the floor and I almost jump. Almost. I hear keys jingling and Joe calling for the other guards but I know they won’t get here in time. He thinks I’m already dead. He won’t follow protocol.

He’s on me in a second, grabbing me as gently as he can in his panic, and lays me down on the floor.

“Shit, shit,” he says as his hands search my body for the wound. He won’t find it. My hand finds his throat and squeezes while the other grabs the baton on his hip. My knee thrusts into his stomach and the air leaves his chest. I flip him onto his back and raise the baton over my head.

“One.” The baton comes down. “Two.” Bones crunch. “Three.” Blood flies.

I’m up to forty-three when I finally feel the pain of the taser. My body seizes as I slump to the ground and the baton falls with a loud crash. The guards circle Joe but he’s already gone. One leans down next to me and places his hands over my throat. One last time, she flashes before my eyes and I smile at the guard.

“It wasn’t me,” I say, as his hands squeeze. “It wasn’t me.”

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Come get Sloshed at the Speakeasy!

32 Comments on “Breaking Point

  1. Wow, you had me reading along faster and faster. That was thrilling and very well constructed. I felt like I was there in the room, listening to Brody and I could hear Joe’s feet as he disappeared down the hallway. Gripping!

    • Hah! What the hell are you talking about Don? 🙂 What is a car-eyed person?

      OH HYBRID! That’s my next novel 🙂 Starting it next month!

  2. Oh this was fantastic, Arden 🙂 You walked us right through the suffering of solitary, feigned camaraderie, and the snap. I’m going back to read it again.

  3. Hi Arden. First I want to say I enjoyed reading your story – as always it is so well-written. But then I have to add, the ending surprised me. Somehow (and I realize this is probably a quirk of my little brain) I read the daily exchanges between Joe and Brody as friendly. So the ending for me was “What??? Yikes!”

    • Hah! Thanks! I guess consider this has been going on for months. Though it may seem friendly, Joe always questions his innocence. That’s what makes him snap. Not so innocent anymore, huh? 🙂

  4. For me I liked the did-he-or-didn’t-he angle. He imagines “her beaten body” whenever he says he’s innocent. Is that guilt or innocence? If he’s capable of killing Joe, seems feasible he’s lying to himself. Excellent write, Arden!

  5. Oh, Arden, this is great. That third “one-two-three” is a hell of a surprise. You are so good at springing these twists! You lull the reader with this conversational narration and then “wham!” Poor Joe.

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  7. Oooo! So dark, Arden! And it’s funny about inmates– they really do always tell you they’re innocent. I mean, I’m sure plenty of them actually are. But I doubt 100%.

    Good story! You know I like doom.

Thoughts??

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